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The Durand Line is back in the news thanks to the assertion of a top US diplomat that it constitutes the "international border" between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The remarks by the US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, during a recent visit to the region, have drawn an angry response from Kabul.
No one in Afghanistan, not even the Taliban that is widely seen as a proxy for Pakistan, is willing to accept the Durand
Line as the nation's legitimate eastern border.
The 2,600 km line is named after Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, undivided India's foreign secretary who "negotiated" it with the Amir of Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman Khan, in 1893. At the end of the 19th century, when the power of the Raj was at its apogee, the rulers of Kabul had no choice but to acquiesce. After the Partition of the subcontinent, the Afghans were less obliged to accept the claims of Pakistan that inherited the Durand Line.
Protesting Grossman's remarks, the foreign office in Kabul said it "rejects and considers irrelevant any statement by anyone about the legal status of this line". Meanwhile, the ministry of foreign affairs in Islamabad insisted the Durand Line between Pakistan and Afghanistan is "a closed and settled issue".
Although London and Washington have long supported Pakistan's claims on the Durand Line, some Western scholars say the decision was motivated by the logic of mobilising Pakistan's support in the Cold War. A report of the House of Commons Library published in June 2010 argues, "The legal status of the Durand Line has never been definitively settled." It suggests there is much credibility to the Afghan claim that the Durand Line was never meant to mark the separation of the territorial sovereignties of the Raj and Afghanistan.
The line, according to some scholars, was about differentiating the spheres of influence of Calcutta and Kabul in the Pashtun lands across the Indus rather than defining the boundary.
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